London 2012 and the Bhopal Disaster

by Saffi Ullah Ahmad

As the 2012 London Olympics approach, a furore has erupted surrounding the £7m sponsorship of the games by the controversial Dow Chemical Company, which is connected with the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, in the Indian city of Bhopal. Lingering effects of the disaster continue to kill and maim people trapped by poverty.

The company has been commissioned to produce a specialized decorative wrap for the Olympic stadium.  Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, and leading human rights groups including Amnesty International have expressed dismay at the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG)’s decision and rumours have circulated regarding a possible Indian boycott. In protest to the deal, thousands of survivors of the disaster burned effigies of the chairman of London 2012, Lord Sebastian Coe, on Friday. A larger group of protestors blocked five of Bhopal’s train lines on Saturday 3 December, the 27th anniversary of the disaster, in the face of fierce police beatings.

Gross negligence on the part of the Union Carbide Corporation, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, culminated in a fatal explosion in a pesticide factory on 2-3 December 1984, releasing 40 tonnes of highly toxic gas which laid waste to one of the poorest regions in India.

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